May 17, 2020

What IT teams can learn from the World Cup

Data Security
data protection
Jonathan Dyble
6 min
The 2018 World Cup has begun, and we have already seen some great matches, sound tactics, enthusiastic fans and good sportsmanship. When watching footba...

The 2018 World Cup has begun, and we have already seen some great matches, sound tactics, enthusiastic fans and good sportsmanship.  When watching football, there is so much we can learn – it’s not just about luck or chance, there is a lot of work that goes into a winning team. There are many lessons we can learn from the sidelines, such as team work, leadership and resilience. Six IT experts have given us their thoughts on what the world cup teaches IT teams…

Have a game plan

Ed Owen, EMEA Cloud Sales Manager at Zerto noted, “The journey to the World Cup takes preparation, and resilience, for players and teams to stand back up after each tackle, and each loss, and keep playing at the top of their game. You can bet that all the teams have run through their tactics to respond to each different scenario over and over again.

The same should be true for businesses preparing to address a security threat. Strict testing of a disaster recovery (DR) plan should be done on a continuous basis, especially in highly regulated industries, such as healthcare, where testing should be undertaken monthly as a minimum. As well as habitually testing the DR plan, it should also be thoroughly documented – like different plays in a game strategy ­­– and understood so that the entire team know what to do if it needs to be engaged.

Resilience is critical for business team success. It may be cyber attacks rather than conceding goals; however, embracing the challenges of various disruptions, and planning how to overcome them, will ultimately determine who is left holding the trophy and winning for their customers.”

Preparation is key

Steve Gailey, Solutions Architect at Exabeam added, “Sun Tzu, the famous Chinese general and author of The Art of War, is often quoted by football managers for his insight into the strategy and tactics of battle. His words “defence is the planning of an attack” ring true, both for football and for cybersecurity. Preparing for the inevitable attack – by looking internally for patterns and trends rather than externally – is an effective defence strategy. Like football managers analysing the data of their own team to understand where the weaknesses are – with the insight informing strategy for the upcoming game – security managers need to understand their own data. In cybersecurity, analysing your own data for the trends and patterns of normal user behaviour gives you a strong baseline from which to identify suspicious activity. Understanding what is normal user behaviour – and what is not – is key to uncovering threats. Defence is the best offence.” 

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Always keep your eye on the ball

Nigel Tozer, GDPR Specialist at Commvault commented, “At the World Cup, you’d expect the goalie to keep his eye on the ball – especially when the stakes are high in the final few minutes of a cup final.

We all know the disappointment that ensues when your team’s goalkeeper lets one in, and it costs you the game. And the same thing is true for IT teams preventing data breaches by effectively managing personal data. If an IT team takes its eye off the ball – and fails to profile the data they manage against the risk its content presents, wherever it is – it could very quickly find itself standing outside the penalty box, as an intruder takes an unwelcome free kick at their systems.

And what’s worse, rather than just losing the match, businesses could find themselves under scrutiny from the ICO for falling foul of GDPR – not just missing out on the FIFA World Cup’s £28 million prize money, but potentially facing up to £17.5 million in fines. In football, the stakes are high so you need to be sure to keep your eyes on the ball and the same is true with GPDR. If you don’t understand your data, you can’t be compliant.”

Have passion

Hubert Da Costa, VP and GM EMEA at Cradlepoint said, “It is the football manager's passion that is key in motivating the squad – and IT teams can learn a lot from this. A leader of a team can take them in the right direction and challenge them to work harder and go further, as long as there is genuine passion. When teams are motivated, the whole company benefits. And as leaders, we need to remember that true leadership goes beyond bottom line results – scoring goals is the aim of the game, but we need to ensure the team is happy and healthy too.”

Don’t score an own goal

Luke Brown, VP EMEA at WinMagic commented, “The goalkeeper is arguably one of the most important members of a football team as he or she is the last line of defence to prevent the other team from scoring. And as Brian Clough once famously pointed out, a save is worth as much as a goal. Organisations need to apply that same principle to their security posture and put in place one final layer of protection so that if they do suffer a data loss incident, the impact will be minimised. The key lesson that organisations can learn from the World Cup is that end-to-end encryption is the ultimate goalkeeper. Even if cyber criminals manage to access your firm’s data – the equivalent of the striker finding the back of the net – the result is worthless. If the data is encrypted it’ll be as much use to the cyber criminal as a referee who’s wearing a blindfold and has no a whistle.”

Look after your fans

Tom Harwood, Chief Product Officer and Co-Founder at Aeriandi concluded, “In football, as in any team sport, the fans are the real heroes. They are the team’s ambassadors to the world, wearing the colours and chanting their support through failure and success. The same holds true in business – your customers can be your greatest supporters and evangelists. When interacting with your fans – often through the contact centre – you want to ensure they have the best possible experience. Providing timely and personalised support is often the focus, but protecting your fans is just as important. The interactive nature of customer calls to a contact centre means they are a prime target for fraudsters, those who aim to manipulate agents into unauthorised account access and data theft.

Thankfully there are a variety of technology-based solutions businesses can use to protect their fans. Secure payment platforms, biometric authentication and fraud detection technology are just some of the innovative ways contact centres can fight the fraudsters. In a world where information is easily accessible from Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites, businesses must ensure they remain vigilant for social engineering and manipulation attempts. Providing a first-class customer journey is a great result, but fighting the fraudsters for your legion of fans is trophy-winning material.”

As the world gets ready to cheer various teams to the final, IT teams can get ready to join in the fun and learn valuable business lessons too.

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Aug 3, 2021

Future-tech and IXAfrica: Full Life Cycle Expertise

IX Africa
3 min
James Wilman, CEO of Future-tech, on working with IXAfrica on Kenya’s largest hyperscale data centre project.

Future-tech is unique among data centre consultancies for a number of reasons. Not only does the Reading-based firm have high levels of expertise in markets ranging from Helsinki to Johannesburg, but Future-tech offers services across the complete life cycle of a facility. 

 “We are involved with projects from the initiation to completion,” explains James Wilman, Future-tech’s CEO. “We go from initiation phase - which could mean the site selection process or technical due diligence for a merger or acquisition - all the way through establishing the brief, the various design stages, construction oversight, commissioning, operation, end of life cycle replenishment, and can start right back at the beginning with refurbishment.”  

While some factors, like the facility requirements for major tenants, remain the same no matter where you are, Wilman explains that “it's the environmental conditions, construction methodologies, supply chain, and skill sets available in different locations that vary, and that makes this a very interesting job.” 

Future-tech was selected by IXAfrica as the life cycle design strategic partner for its hyperscale campus project in Nairobi, Kenya. Wilman explains that, over the past year, Future-tech has been leveraging its strong local knowledge, working closely with Kenyan architects and engineers, and collaborating with both Guy Wilner and Clement Martineau, to help IXAfrica successfully deliver Kenya’s largest hyperscale data centre. 

“Future-tech did its first project on the African continent in 2012 in Kenya. I've been involved in the data centre space there for a long time, and have known Guy for a number of years through projects and interaction in Europe,” says Wilman. “As the IXAfrica project came into being, Guy and I spoke about it as he knew that we were already quite familiar with the area. We assisted out with the initial planning and project design, and the relationship really grew from there.” 

Wilman adds that the experience helping Future-tech support the IXAfrica project has been hard-won. “It's been a steep learning curve, figuring out how to work in Africa. Some of our earlier projects were quite challenging, but we're fortunate to be at a point now where working throughout the region feels really comfortable,” he explains. “One of the things about Nairobi - which we found out when we were working on our first project in the city back in 2012 - is that, because it's about 1,200 metres above sea level, the altitude actually de-rates the onsite equipment. Having your equipment perform less well because of the altitude can massively impact the whole facility.” Understanding the factors that define a local environment can be the difference between success and disaster for a data centre, and Future-tech’s extensive experience in Kenya is a key supporting factor for IXAfrica’s success in Nairobi. 

Wilman has also developed a strong collaborative relationship with Guy and Clement. “We've got over a gigawatt of design projects going through our office at the moment with different clients, which means that we're always learning new things. What is refreshing about working with Guy and Clement is that when we bring them a new idea, they listen to us,” says Wilman. “We've had a good run in Nairobi with IXAfrica built off of a long relationship, and I hope we get to continue working with them on their future projects.”  

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